Citing freedom of religion, judge acquits U.S. and Kenyan preachers.
NAIROBI – A Nairobi court has acquitted two U.S. evangelists and their Kenyan counterparts of charges of inciting Muslims to violence.
Orisio Andrew Saucier and Paul Eddie Garcia of Calvary Baptist Church were declared free men by Kibera Principal Magistrate Hellen Wasilwa, who noted that the anti-Islamic literature used by the defendants was similar to anti-Christian literature in Muslim bookstores that, neverthless, did not cause Christians to raise charges of “incitement to violence.”
Saucier, Garcia and their Kenyan colleagues, Michael Otange Muleyi and Patrick Mutinda Ngei, had been charged with inciting Muslims to violence at Ngong township, on the outskirts of Nairobi, where they are based.
The preachers were accused of provoking the Muslims by distributing a Swahili publication, Allah Hakuwa na Mwana [Allah Had No Son]. According to the prosecution, the Christians had put the publication where pupils at Bulbul Primary School and Muslims could see it, thus allegedly injuring the religious feelings of Muslims.
“The incitement made Muslims in the area storm Calvary Baptist Church in Ngong,” read the charge.
In her ruling, however, Wasilwa said there was freedom of worship in Kenya and that groups could give their views on religion.
“Kenya is a democratic country which guarantees freedom of worship, and displaying of pamphlets in my view does not amount to incitement to violence,” she said.
The magistrate chastised the prosecution for not providing evidence in their case against the church leaders, adding that Muslim books sold in bookshops talk about Jesus not being the Son of God, yet no Muslim had been arrested and charged with incitement to violence.
The case attracted huge interest, especially among Muslims. On the first day the four defendants appeared in court, a crowd of Muslims jammed the courtroom and later held a demonstration outside it condemning the Christians. Riot control police were called to keep the peace.
Muslims had demonstrated outside the defendants’ church after the pamphlets were found near the primary school, which grew into rioting when the evangelists were arrested on October 17.
An estimated 33 percent of Kenya’s population is Muslim.
Copyright 2006 Compass Direct News